Do you think Nyanza is ready to back a NASA presidential candidate other than Raila?
The most popular candidate should be given the ticket and in this case, it goes without saying that it is ODM leader Raila. The problem is that people believe in Raila more than they do the other three principals. However, if he backs any of the other principals and asks Nyanza to do so, the people will. But we cannot rule out apathy from disappointed people should this be the case.
There is a perception that Luo Nyanza governors have performed below par...
That is not true. Those with such views should tell us what yardstick they are using to gauge our performance. We are being judged compared to who or what? We are the pioneer governors in a region that for years had been marginalised in terms of resources and infrastructure by the central government. To the contrary, we have done quite well.
But Nyanza governors are facing stiff competition from senior politicians and businessmen...
Most of the current aspirants had the opportunity to vie in 2013, but dismissed the position as a preserve of ‘village politics.’ I wonder why they are now jostling for the same position. If you ask me, it is based on the belief that the position gives you access to a lot of resources. They should stop lying to the public that they are interested in fixing the wrongs of the serving governors. Their motivation is pure greed and self interest.
Will you survive?
One of my competitors is someone who has nothing but a big name, that’s all. He was an MP and a Cabinet minister for years, but has nothing to show for it. The people of Migori are not easily fooled and they will make the right choice come election day. My other competitor equally has nothing to offer. The Bible says a man and a woman are one thing, so if her husband has done nothing as an MP, it follows that she too cannot do much as a governor.
Your tenure has been marred by corruption allegations and recently, you were among those implicated by the Senate committee on the same...
These are baseless propaganda peddled by my rivals and blown out of proportion by the media. I am not corrupt. We paid KEMSA (Kenya Medical Supplies Authority)for the supply of drugs, but we did not furnish the auditors with receipts when they were going through the books. That does not mean money was lost. The receipts were not issued then but they are there. On procurement of vehicles worth Sh231million, the purchase included ambulance from Toyota Kenya who mainly deal in pick-ups but require upfront payment if one requires a different vehicle like in this case, an ambulance.
When the auditors were here, they found that we had paid for the ambulance, but Toyota was yet to deliver and we explained this to them. Before I was elected the governor, I was running successful businesses, besides having invested in property. People should not think that whatever I have is as result of my position as governor.
There are calls barring governors mentioned in corruption from vying...
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has issues with some governors and some have been taken to court. But if one is just a suspect, that should not be used as an excuse to bar them from holding public office.
The farming of tobacco and sugar, the main cash crops of Migori, have almost been crippled. Is it true you kicked out Mastermind Tobacco out of the county in favour of BAT, which allegedly has resulted in more harm than good for tobacco farmers?
That is false. BAT was the very first company and it came here around early 1970s. Later, they were joined by Mastermind Tobacco and as we speak, both companies are operating in the county. The last company to come was Alliance One. The three companies entered into some kind of a zoning agreement. BAT was to operate in a certain area, Mastermind picked theirs and Alliance One did the same.
Alliance One does not have a processing facility in Kenya, so they are basically like brokers - they grow tobacco and sell it to BAT and other foreign buyers. It is purely coincidental that Mastermind moved out of Migori. But that was their own decision. It only happened that they made the decision after I became governor and my political opponents took advantage of it by spreading rumours that I was to blame. I have been to United Arab Emirates, Turkey and China in search of a serious player in the tobacco sector who can set up a factory in Migori to benefit our farmers.
On sugar, Miwani Sugar died, Muhoroni and Chemelil are struggling, yet they are not millers within Migori County. The sugar company with the highest debt and is within the public domain is Nzoia in Bungoma County. How that when Sony Sugar is struggling, like other millers in the country, then I am the one responsible?
Have you felt the political implications of being the only governor in Luo Nyanza not elected on an ODM ticket?
Yes. I was in ODM up to the nomination process and I believe up to now that I am the one who won the party nominations. We were five contestants and I had over 60 per cent of the vote. As a matter of fact, it is the wananchi who felt offended more than I did. They told me, ‘Do not come back without a certificate.’ When I informed them that the ODM one was gone and the only available one was a PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) ticket, their response was that it didn’t matter - as long as I had a valid certificate, they were going to vote for me. I am back in ODM and was welcomed openly and publicly by the party leader Raila Odinga. I will seek re-election on the same.
Migori has been flagged as hotspot for violence. What is the reality on the ground?
In the last two years, Migori has been ranked first out of the 47 counties in terms of cohesion and integration. The rise in political temperatures has occasionally resulted in violent flareups. Recently, when some contestants entered the gubernatorial race, things changed and it is true that the ground is becoming hostile. I blame this on a few candidates. In 2012/2013 campaigns, there was no violence during campaigns. But I am now receiving reports of people being beaten, injured with pangas or even killed for political reasons, almost on a daily basis. The police should take action and arrest the perpetrators of the violence.
Why should the people of Migori give you a second term? What would you do differently?
My vision for the county has not been fulfilled. I would like to see a more empowered and stable Migori. When I started, I lost almost one and a half years going to court because of the petition and the political temperature then was unpredictable. I would like to have another opportunity so that I can fully execute my plans. Judging me by just one term would not give a complete picture. Given another five years, I would push for efficiency since I have already laid the foundation and put structures in place. There are a number of incomplete projects that need to be finished. The problem is that we had few contractors who took more contracts than they could deliver. I will insist on improved productivity from my employees now that I know the challenges and have evaluated them well.